Non-profit

Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL)

Website:

www.techandciviclife.org

Location:

CHICAGO, IL

Tax ID:

47-2158694

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(3)

Budget (2018):

Revenue: $1,044,134
Expenses: $841,577
Assets: $795,279

Formation:

2012

Type:

Center-Left Election Reform Advocacy Group

Founders:

Tiana Epps-Johnson

Donny Bridges

Whitney May

The Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) is a Chicago, Illinois-based center-left election reform advocacy group formed in 2012. The organization pushes for left-of-center voting policies and election administration. It has a wide reach into local elections offices across the nation and is funded by many left-of-center funding organizations such as the Skoll Foundation, the Democracy Fund, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. [1] [2] [3]

Tiana Epps-Johnson, Donny Bridges, and Whitney May, the founders of the Center for Tech and Civic Life, were co-workers at the New Organizing Institute (NOI) for several years before the organization dissolved in 2015. [4] NOI, described by a Washington Post reporter as “the Democratic Party’s Hogwarts for digital wizardry,” was a major training center for left-of-center digital activists over the decade of its existence. [5] Additionally, a few members of CTCL’s board of directors have strong ties to Democratic political operations, notably Tammy Patrick, a senior advisor to the elections program at Pierre Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, and Cristina Sinclaire, who was previously employed by NOI as well as by the progressive data service Catalist. [6]

In the months leading up to the 2020 election, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan donated a total of $350 million to CTCL. CTCL then donated the funds in the form of grants to various jurisdictions throughout the United States to help them hire more staff, buy mail-in ballot processing machinery, and other measures they deemed necessary to properly handle the election amid the COVID-19 pandemic. [7] [8]

Background

The Center for Technology and Civic Life was founded in 2012 by Tiana Epps-Johnson, Whitney May, and Donny Bridges. The three co-founders have a long history in election policy with May being a former election official. The goal of the organization at its founding was to use data to streamline election administration and increase turnout in American elections. The organization has several programs and initiatives focused on election data and outreach to local election officials. [9]

Activity

The Center for Technology and Civic Life has two main programming areas: “civic data” (a term it uses for election and candidate information), and training for election officials. CTCL has assembled resources to collect data from nearly every local election office; covering candidates on the ballot for each race, information describing those offices, and contact information for elected officials. The organization boasts that more than 250 million voters have accessed its data and that CTCL acts as a major supplier of ballot data for tech giants Facebook and Google. Additionally, Rock the Vote, the Women Donors Network, and the Voting Information Project have all used data provided by CTCL. [10]

The Center for Tech and Civic Life also hosts an annual conference for election officials and left-of-center election policy activists. Left-leaning advocacy organizations represented at the CTCL’s 2019 conference included the Democracy Fund, “e.thePeople” (part of the League of Women Voters), Metric Geometry & Gerrymandering Group, We Vote, MapLight, Democracy Works, and the National Institute on Money in Politics. [11]

The center has a network of hundreds of election offices across the nation and works to train election officials. CTCL provides courses to election offices and travels to offices (for a fee of $5,000) to help local officials collect data, build websites, and develop messages to motivate voters. The center also operates ElectionTools.org, which provides free templates and forms for use by election officials. [12]

Webinars for 2020 Election Officials

On May 28, 2020, CTCL posted a webinar entitled “Ensuring access, equity, and inclusion,” which concerned the types of demographic groups CTCL wished to target with voter participation outreach campaigns. The presentation identifies people with “language barriers,” “displaced voters,” and “hard-to-reach voters” as those in need of CTCL’s assistance in making voting more accessible. [13]

On June 16, 2020, CTCL released a webinar entitled “Organizing Ballot Dropoff Locations,” a tutorial on how election officials should manage the ballot dropoff process. It encouraged election offices to show eligible voters how they can engage in this method of voting, especially voters in communities with lower vote-by-mail registrations. [14]

On July 30, 2020, CTCL posted a webinar entitled “Combatting Election Misinformation” as a resource to help election officials be “reliable source[s] of information” to combat misinformation. It justified the need for election officials to combat misinformation citing Russian interference in the 2016 election, and claimed Donald Trump himself has been a source of disinformation. The webinar encourages the reporting of social media posts when they are suspicious of being misinformation and provides instructions on how to do so. It also encourages election officials to establish relationships with factcheckers and journalists to make spreading factual information easier. [15]

2020 COVID-19 Pandemic

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Center for Tech and Civic Life began to play an active part in the effort led by the Democracy Fund to normalize mail-in ballots in the 2020 general election. CTCL has held remote trainings and provides resources on voting by mail for election officials. [16]

In August, 2020, CTCL announced that it had donated $6.3 million to five cities in Wisconsin, a swing state in the upcoming  election. The organization explained that the funds are meant to ensure Wisconsin has a “safe, inclusive, and secure election.” [17] CTCL recommended the recipient cities to “Encourage and Increase Absentee Voting,” “Dramatically Expand Strategic Voter Education & Outreach Efforts, Particularly to Historically Disenfranchised Residents,” “Launch Poll Worker Recruitment, Training and Safety Efforts,” and “Ensure Safe and Efficient Election Day Administration.” [18]

In the same press release, the Center for Tech and Civic Life announced it was creating a “COVID-19 Response Rural Grants Program” to provide similar safety measures across the country, which include drive-thru voting options, funds for voting facilities to hire additional staff, and expansions to the vote by mail system. [19] CTCL noted that it would prioritize certain recipients, especially those that fell under two categories: one being jurisdictions that were required to provide language assistance and have a higher percentage of historically disenfranchised residents, and the other being jurisdictions in states that had recently changed absentee voting laws or rules due to COVID-19. [20]

The mayors of the major Wisconsin cities which received these funds had sent a letter to CTCL in June requesting, in light of the difficulties election offices had faced during the April 2020 primary and local elections coping with the COVID-19 pandemic, to “work collaboratively” with CTCL in the general election. They outlined the problems they had in the April, highlighted the ways in which they could improve the system (including the need to “Encourage and Increase Absentee Voting”), and calculated the budgetary items they needed, coming to the $6.3 million figure. [21]

In August 2020, CTCL gave $10 million to the city of Philadelphia, which went a long way, as Philadelphia’s elections office has an annual budget of about $12.3 million. [22] [23] CTCL designated the funds for upgrading mail-in ballot processing equipment, setting up 15 election offices for “in-person early voting using mail ballots,” opening 800 polling places in the city, installing at least 15 drop boxes for mail ballots in the city, and giving poll staffers bonuses for working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Pennsylvania, like Wisconsin, was a swing state with many potential Democratic voters, and CTCL gave this grant a few months before the 2020 presidential election.

CTCL gave an additional $2.2 million to Delaware County. In the summer of 2020, CTCL gave out a total of $15 million in grants. This was significantly more than what CTCL’s average annual budget was in previous years, which was around $1 million. [24] There is no public indication of where that money came from, as it was before Mark Zuckerberg donated to the cause.

By November, CTCL had given grants to over 2,500 election offices throughout the United States. A map, as well as a list, of all the jurisdictions which received CTCL funding is available on its website. [25] CTCL asked its recipients how they would spend their grants; almost 2,000 indicated they would be using the funds to upgrade their mail-in ballot processing capabilities, and an estimated 750 said they would be funding voter education efforts. [26]

After the November 3rd election, the results of Georgia’s senate race necessitated a runoff election in January 2021. CTCL pledged philanthropic support to Georgia’s election offices to help them process the votes, but laid out a number of restrictions for what the money can be spent on: more personnel, improved voting site features to deal with COVID such as ballot drop boxes and drive-thrus, and voter outreach in the form of “non-partisan voter education” and “voting materials in languages other than English.” [27] In its proposal, CTCL said that all Georgia counties were eligible to apply for a grant, the minimum amount being $5,000. [28]

Funding and Support

On September 1, 2020, founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced they were donating $250 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life and $50 million to the Center for Election Innovation & Research. [29] Shortly after, CTCL stated its plans to regrant the money to local election jurisdictions across the United States to help them process mailed-in ballots and meet sanitation requirements imposed on polling stations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. [30]

In October 2020, Zuckerberg and Chan announced they were donating an additional $100 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life despite the first round of grants sparking controversy among conservatives, leading some groups to file lawsuits. “Since our initial donation, there have been multiple lawsuits filed in an attempt to block these funds from being used, based on claims that the organizations receiving donations have a partisan agenda. That’s false,” Zuckerberg said. [31]

Besides the large sum Zuckerberg and Chan gave to CTCL, the organization has received financial and other assistance from several center-left foundations and advocacy organizations.

In April 2020 the Skoll Foundation awarded CTCL a $1.5 million grant. [32] And for donation years 2015 through 2017 the charitable recordkeeping service FoundationSearch reports more than $1.3 million in total donations to CTCL from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, as well as at least $690,000 from the Democracy Fund to CTCL, and another $10,000 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to CTCL. [33]

On its “Key Funders and Partners” web page, the Center for Tech and Civic Life also credits these organizations as having “supported” its work:[34]

Leadership

Leadership

Tiana Epps-Johnson is the founder, executive director, and president of the Center for Tech and Civic Life. Before joining the Center, she was the election administration director of the New Organizing Institute from 2012 to 2015. The New Organizing Institute was a major training center for left-of-center digital activists from its founding in 2005 to its dissolution in 2015. Epps-Johnson had also worked at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights, helping with its Voting Rights Project. [35] She also sits on CTCL’s board of directors.

Whitney May is the co-founder and director of CTCL’s government services department. She had previously worked on the Voting Information Project at the New Organizing Institute. [36]

Donny Bridges is the co-founder and director of CTCL’s civic data department. Prior to joining CTCL, he worked as the election administration research director at the New Organizing Institute from 2012 to 2015. [37]

The Center for Tech and Civic Life’s board of directors includes Pam Anderson, the owner of the nonprofit management consulting firm Consilium Colorado; Tammy Patrick, a senior advisor to the elections program at Pierre Omidyar‘s Democracy Fund, a left-of-center policy foundation; Sureel Sheth, vice president of JMI Equity in San Diego, a growth equity firm; and Cristina Sinclaire, the senior vice president of Clarity Campaign Labs. Sinclaire previously worked at Catalist, providing data to over 200 progressive organizations, and at the New Organizing Institute, researching voting laws and building data tools. [38]

Board of Advisors

CTCL’s board of advisors consists of a number of former and current elections divisions officers for various jurisdictions in the United States. [39]

Kim A. Barton is supervisor of elections for Alachua County, Florida. In September 2020, CTCL awarded Alachua County $707,606 as part of its COVID-19 relief grants; Barton is listed as the recipient of the grant in her capacity as supervisor of elections. [40]

Toni Pippins-Poole is elections administrator for Dallas County, Texas. In September 2020, CTCL awarded Dallas County $15,130,433 as part of its COVID-19 relief grants. [41]

Grace Wachlarowicz is assistant city clerk to the Minneapolis, Minnesota director of elections and voter services. In September 2020, CTCL awarded Minneapolis $2,297,342 in COVID-19 relief grants. [42]

Maurice Turner is senior advisor to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Tim Tsujii is director of elections for the Forsyth County, North Carolina board of elections.

Whitney Quesenbery is director for the Center for Civic Design.

Ricky Hatch is clerk/auditor for Weber County, Utah.

Joanna Francescut is assistant county clerk and registrar of voters for Shasta County, California.

Norelys R. Consuegra is deputy director of elections for the Rhode Island secretary of state.

Indira Arriaga is language assistance compliance manager for Alaska division of elections.

References

  1. “The Center for Technology and Civic Life”. Democracy Fund. Accessed May 11, 2020.  https://www.democracyfund.org/portfolio/entry/the-center-for-technology-and-civic-life ^
  2. Grego, Suzana. “Skoll Foundation Announces 2020 Awards for Social Entrepreneurship.” Skoll Foundation. April 15, 2020. Accessed May 19, 2020. https://skoll.org/2020/04/15/skoll-foundation-announces-2020-awards-for-social-entrepreneurship-clone/ ^
  3. Data compiled by FoundationSearch.com subscription service, a project of Metasoft Systems, Inc., from forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Queries conducted May 19, 2020. ^
  4. “Our Team.” The Center for Tech and Civil Life. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/team/. ^
  5. Fung, Brian. “Inside the Democratic Party’s Hogwarts for Digital Wizardry,” April 24, 2019. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2014/07/08/inside-the-democratic-partys-hogwarts-for-digital-wizardry/. ^
  6. “Board of Directors.” Center for Tech and Civic Life. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/board-of-directors/. ^
  7. Allen, Mike. “Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Invest $300 Million in Election Infrastructure,” September 1, 2020. https://www.axios.com/mark-zuckerberg-priscilla-chan-election-security-a4950a93-2efd-42a6-9d7a-5fcc763f9214.html. ^
  8. Culliford, Elizabeth. “Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan Donate $100 Million More to U.S. Election Infrastructure,” October 13, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-zuckerberg-chan/mark-zuckerberg-priscilla-chan-donate-100-million-more-to-u-s-election-infrastructure-idUSKBN26Y22Z. ^
  9. “Center for Tech and Civic Life”. Skoll. Accessed May 11, 2020. https://skoll.org/organization/center-for-tech-and-civic-life/ ^
  10. “Civic Data”. Center for Technology and Civic Life. Accessed May 11, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/our-work/civic-data/ ^
  11. “2019 Attendee Bios” Center for Tech and Civic Life.  Accessed May 11, 2020. https://tiana-eppsjohnson-49eh.squarespace.com/ballot2019/bios ^
  12. “Election officials”. Center for Technology and Civic Life. Accessed May 11, 2020.  https://www.techandciviclife.org/our-work/election-officials/ ^
  13. “Ensuring Access, Equity, and Inclusion.” Chicago: Center for Tech and Civic Life, May 28, 2020. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/12/CTCL-Equity-and-Inclusion.-May-2020.pdf ^
  14. “Organizing Ballot Dropoff Locations.” Chicago: Center for Tech and Civic Life, June 16, 2020. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/12/CTCL-Organizing-Ballot-Drop-Off.-June-2020.pdf ^
  15. “Combatting Election Misinformation.” Chicago: Center for Tech and Civic Life, July 20, 2020. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/12/CTCL-Combating-Election-Misinformation.-July-2020.pdf ^
  16. Roje, Philip. “Virus-Proofing the Vote: Democracy Funders Respond to COVID-19” Inside Philanthropy. Accessed May 11, 2020. https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2020/4/1/virus-proofing-the-vote-democracy-funders-respond-to-covid-19 ^
  17. “CTCL Announces COVID-19 Response Rural Grants Program.” Center for Tech and Civic Life, August 7, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/covid-19-rural-grants/. ^
  18. “Non-Profits Providing Vote by Mail Support to City and County Election Offices.” Ballotpedia. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://ballotpedia.org/Non-profits_providing_vote_by_mail_support_to_city_and_county_election_offices. ^
  19. “CTCL Announces COVID-19 Response Rural Grants Program.” Center for Tech and Civic Life, August 7, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/covid-19-rural-grants/. ^
  20. “CTCL Announces COVID-19 Response Rural Grants Program.” Center for Tech and Civic Life, August 7, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/covid-19-rural-grants/. ^
  21. Wisconsin Safe Voting Plan 2020.
    Submitted to the Center for Tech & Civic Life. June 15, 2020. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/12/CTCL-Wisconsin-Safe-Voting-Plan.pdf ^
  22. Lai, Jonathan. “Philly Is about to Get $10 Million for Mail Ballot Drop Boxes, Early Voting, and Raises for Poll Workers,” August 26, 2020. https://www.inquirer.com/politics/election/philadelphia-2020-election-funding-20200826.html. ^
  23. “Philadelphia City Commissioners’ Chairwoman Lisa Deeley to Propose Motion to Accept $10 Million Grant to Conduct Safe Election This Fall.” Accessed October 26, 2020. https://www.philadelphiavotes.com/en/home/item/1827-motion_to_accept_grant_for_safe_election. ^
  24. Action Network Fund, Return of Organization Exempt From Income Tax (Form 990), 2016-2019. ^
  25. CTCLAdmin. “CTCL Program Awards Over 2,500 COVID-19 Response Grants,” November 10, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/grant-awards/. Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20201121080557/https://www.techandciviclife.org/grant-awards/ ^
  26. CTCLAdmin. “A First Look at CTCL Grant Program Impact.” Center for Tech and Civic Life, November 13, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/grant-update-november/. ^
  27. Center for Tech and Civic Life. “Safe Voting Plan Grant Request: Georgia January Runoff Election.” https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/12/Template-Georgia-Runoff-Safe-Voting-Plan-Template.docx ^
  28. Center for Tech and Civic Life. “CTCL COVID-19 Response Grants Available for Georgia Runoff.” November 17, 2020. https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/12/CTCL-Georgia-Runoff-Response-Grants.pdf ^
  29. Allen, Mike. “Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan Invest $300 Million in Election Infrastructure,” September 1, 2020. https://www.axios.com/mark-zuckerberg-priscilla-chan-election-security-a4950a93-2efd-42a6-9d7a-5fcc763f9214.html. ^
  30. CTCLAdmin. “CTCL Receives $250M Contribution to Support Critical Work of Election Officials.” Center for Tech and Civic Life, September 1, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/open-call/. ^
  31. Culliford, Elizabeth. “Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan Donate $100 Million More to U.S. Election Infrastructure,” October 13, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-zuckerberg-chan/mark-zuckerberg-priscilla-chan-donate-100-million-more-to-u-s-election-infrastructure-idUSKBN26Y22Z. ^
  32. Grego, Suzana. “Skoll Foundation Announces 2020 Awards for Social Entrepreneurship.” Skoll Foundation. April 15, 2020. Accessed May 19, 2020. https://skoll.org/2020/04/15/skoll-foundation-announces-2020-awards-for-social-entrepreneurship-clone/ ^
  33. Data compiled by FoundationSearch.com subscription service, a project of Metasoft Systems, Inc., from forms filed with the Internal Revenue Service. Queries conducted August 21, 2020. ^
  34. “Key Funders and Partners.” Center for Tech and Civic Life. Accessed May 19, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/key-funders-and-partners/ ^
  35. “Tiana Epps-Johnson.” The Center for Tech and Civil Life. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/team/tiana-epps-johnson/. ^
  36. “Whitney May.” The Center for Tech and Civil Life. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/team/whitney-may/. ^
  37. “Donny Bridges.” The Center for Tech and Civil Life. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/team/donny-bridges/. ^
  38. “Board of Directors.” Center for Tech and Civic Life. Accessed August 21, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/board-of-directors/. ^
  39. “Advisory Committee.” Center for Tech and Civic Life. Accessed December 7, 2020. https://www.techandciviclife.org/advisory-committee/ ^
  40. Grant Letter from CTCL to Alachua County, FL. September 21, 2020. Accessed Dec. 7, 2020. Original URL: https://alachua.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=4663759&GUID=F2980723-483C-4729-A2DB-34C2014C0483. Archived: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/12/CTCL-Alachua-County-Florida-Agreement.-12.20.pdf ^
  41. “Dallas County Elections Department Receives Over $15 Million Grant from Center for Tech and Civic Life for COVID-19 Response and Preparedness.” Press Release: Dallas County. September 25, 2020. Accessed Dec. 7, 2020. Original URL: https://www.dallascounty.org/Assets/uploads/docs/covid-19/press-releases/september/092520-PressRelease-DallasCountyElectionsDepartmentReceivesOver$15MillionGrantfromCenterforTechandCivicLifeforCOVID-19ResponseandPreparedness.pdf. Archived: https://www.influencewatch.org/app/uploads/2020/12/CTCL-Dallas-County-Texas-Grant.pdf ^
  42. Minneapolis: Center for Tech and Civic Life Grant. September 30, 2020. Accessed Dec. 7, 2020. https://lims.minneapolismn.gov/RCA/6813 ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Donny Bridges
    Co-Founder
  2. Whitney May
    Co-Founder

Supported Movements

  1. Vote Early Day
  See an error? Let us know!

Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: January - December
  • Tax Exemption Received: March 1, 2015

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2018 Jan Form 990 $1,044,134 $841,577 $795,279 $61,760 N $738,060 $304,459 $19 $97,850
    2017 Jan Form 990 $970,937 $1,002,928 $564,557 $84,595 N $272,161 $698,757 $19 $94,004
    2016 Jan Form 990 $1,013,853 $501,900 $552,398 $40,445 N $666,904 $346,942 $7 $83,759 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL)

    233 N MICHIGAN AVE STE 1800
    CHICAGO, IL 60601-5802